Convinced that downtown Enumclaw has unrealized potential, the city will soon be looking for developers interested in turning dreams to reality.
The notion of using public land to create a destination for locals and visitors is nothing new. A plan was developed, gathered cobwebs for a time and was eventually dusted off with a renewed sense of interest. On Dec. 11, members of the Enumclaw City Council gave their blessing for administration to seek proposals for development at the intersection of Stevenson Avenue and Cole Street, presently a parking lot.
The action taken during the council’s final meeting of 2017 is the latest installment in a tale that stretches back to at least 2006. That’s when the city amended its municipal code to allow for multi-story, mixed-use development in downtown zones. At that time, the city had heard from two private developers who kicked around the notion of developing the land; those plans were scrapped, however, with the onset of the most-recent recession.
Former Mayor Liz Reynolds has been an outspoken booster of downtown development and pushed for money to be included in the city budget that paid for professional help in kick-starting the project.
That led to the council’s Nov. 11 vote, which allows administration to seek parties interested in mixed-use development. The action does not commit the city to a specific design or financial arrangement; city options include selling the land or securing a long-term lease.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
The city has long looked at all its downtown holdings and considered what could best serve the community. The land in question covers just over 10 acres, includes parcels on both sides of Railroad Avenue and stretches from Stevenson Avenue on the south to Washington Avenue on the north.
Included on the city-owned land are parking spaces for 400 vehicles, the building housing the Chamber of Commerce and Arts Alive!, Rotary Centennial Park, the Loggers Legacy Memorial, the public library and all the vacant land sitting directly north of the library, including the community garden.
The goals for the entire area, according to plans shared during the 2015 workshop, include a handful of key elements.
• to create a downtown “gathering space” with amenities attractive to both residents and tourists;
• to include a space for events ranging from a farmers market to street fairs, outdoor movies and concerts.
• to develop Railroad Street and Initial Avenue as a promenade with wide sidewalks and unique paving;
• to “fill the block” on Cole Street. It was noted the current situation, with a parking lot fronting Cole, creates a visual barrier, effectively putting an end to the shopping district.
Also mentioned is the importance of creating downtown housing as part of the mixed-use nature of the proposed development. People who live downtown support shops and restaurants.